The Story Behind Cameron Ugbodu’s Charitable Art Piece for Auction

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The Inaugural Mothers’ Ball
mothers2mothers Ambassador Sabrina Elba speaks at The Inaugural Mothers’ Ball, in front of Sprout by Cameron UgboduPhotography by Selasi Ayettey

In autumn last year, Dazed commissioned the Austrian-Nigerian artist to create a piece inspired by the impactful work of mothers2mothers. In a visual diary, we gain a sneak peek into his process

Cameron Ugbodu has dedicated his recent years to representation. The self-taught visual artist was born in Austria to a Nigerian father and an Austrian mother, living in a small town of around 3,000 people – here, he realised his family were the only Black people. Now age 24, his work in photography, painting, film, mixed media and curation aims to explore themes of Blackness, queerness and masculinity, imagining a world miles away from his upbringing. In autumn last year, Dazed commissioned the artist to capture a series of portraits of mothers2mothers (m2m) Mentor Mothers, elevating the women to art in an effort to highlight their strength, beauty and resilience.

m2m is an organisation that employs women living with HIV as community health workers across ten African countries. Known as Mentor Mothers, they are given vital training to provide health services to those in need, to ensure that everybody has access to the services they need to stay healthy. Since its creation in 2001, m2m has created jobs for nearly 12,000 women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa and, together, they have reached over 15 million people with critical health services and education. As a trusted, local health worker, these women provide a lifeline to their communities.

Ugbodu’s portraits of these brilliant women were transformed into an art piece titled Sprout. In royal blue and gilded with gold, the artwork imagines a surreal tree, branching each mother together in a powerful representation of teamwork. “Sprout started when I learned how the mentorship programme worked,” the artist says in a visual diary commissioned by Dazed. “Teaching the things you’ve learned to someone who’s been through the same experiences as you, taking them by the hand and bringing them up. I wanted their greatness and their care in one artwork.”

The artwork went up for auction at The Inaugural Mothers’ Ball in November last year, staged in the grand V&A South Kensington, London. Hosted by m2m ambassador Sabrina Elba, the event brought together around 400 guests, including Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley, June Sarpong, Emma Weymouth, Ayda Field Williams, as well as members of the Dazed team, with one clear goal – to invest in, and to help train, employ, and support m2m Mentor Mothers. “It made me emotional,” says Babalwa Mbono, one of the mothers depicted in Ugbodu’s groundbreaking work. “To give back to where we are coming from, looking at the good work we are presenting today to these people. That picture reminds me of how blessed I was, the power of the woman, to stand today and to continue to do good work and make changes to people’s lives. That was the best thing I could ever imagine.”